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My Take: On Komen controversy, media told half the story
The author says the news media took Planned Parenthood's side in the Susan G. Komen Foundation controversy.
February 7th, 2012
12:44 PM ET

My Take: On Komen controversy, media told half the story

Editor's Note: Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a media critic at GetReligion and editor at Ricochet.

By Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, Special to CNN

Faced with a deluge of media opposition and pressure from lawmakers, the Susan G. Komen foundation amended its decision to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood last week. Afterward, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell complimented each other on getting Komen to buckle under pressure.

Mitchell’s hostile interrogation of Ambassador Nancy Brinker, Komen’s CEO and founder, was widely viewed as a key moment in Planned Parenthood’s campaign against Komen.

“I thought you did such an interesting interview with the ambassador yesterday,” Boxer said to Mitchell during a televised discussion, “which I think helped bring this about, if I might say.”

Mitchell later returned the favor: “Sen. Barbara Boxer, thank you very much. Thank you for everything you’ve done on this.”

Some claims of media bias are overwrought. But here, the media wasn’t even trying to hide its advocacy on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

And in so doing, the media only told half the story.

Half the political story.

The media bought Planned Parenthood’s public relations campaign hook, line and sinker. Planned Parenthood argued that Komen’s decision to stop funding was “political.” This was the way most media outlets framed the entire story. But logic dictates that it’s not more political to stop funding Planned Parenthood than it is to keep funding it.

We’re talking about the country’s largest abortion provider, an organization that performs 330,000 abortions a year. According to Gallup polls from recent years, about half the American population identifies as pro-life while half identify as pro-choice. If you don’t have a sense for how controversial abortion is, you simply shouldn’t be in journalism.

Planned Parenthood receives nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer funds, including from Medicaid payments. Along with its political arm, it spent at least $1.7 million on lobbying at the federal level last year. Its political expenditures for the 2012 cycle have swung 100% for Democrats and against Republicans. Its political web site ranks a series of Republicans as “chumps.”

The notion that such a huge partisan player could be characterized as apolitical is laughable.

Half the reaction.

Media outlets certainly captured the outrage of Planned Parenthood supporters, which led most newscasts and articles. But was it an accurate reflection of how everyone reacted to the news? Hardly.

To explain, Komen had a serious fundraising problem due to its engagement with Planned Parenthood. Though its grants to the organization were around $600,000 a year, a relatively small snippet of either group’s budget, the relationship kept many people who oppose abortion from donating.

By ending its relationship with an abortion provider, Komen would likely be able to broaden its base of support to include donors who strenuously oppose abortion. But in most media accounts, these people were completely invisible.

This is part of a disturbing pattern where the media downplay stories of importance and interest to pro-lifers, such as their annual March for Life in Washington or the Obama administration’s recent mandate that religious organizations provide insurance coverage for abortifacients.

The way the media presented the views of women and breast cancer survivors in particular was even worse, as if they unilaterally supported Planned Parenthood when about half of American women identify as pro-life.

Charmaine Yoest, the head of Americans United for Life, had called on Komen to stop working with Planned Parenthood. After Komen’s initial decision, she said, “As a breast cancer survivor, I was always troubled with this whole idea that the nation’s largest abortion provider was enmeshed in the breast cancer fight when they weren’t actually doing mammograms. I look at this as smart stewardship.”

Half the investigation

Even after Komen backed down, the media have continued to attack. What was once widely presented as one of the most unifying charities in the country is now being thoroughly investigated by reporters.

“Komen spends lavishly on salaries and promotion,” The Washington Post announced, highlighting Brinker’s $417,000 salary heading the group she founded 30 years ago. Nowhere in the article, however, did we learn what Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards makes ($354,000) or that her predecessor reportedly earned $900,000 in 2005.

While Komen will now be raked over the coals, will the media similarly investigate Planned Parenthood? It’s doubtful.

The media coverage has been so fawning over the years that conservative activists have recently gone undercover to raise doubts about whether Planned Parenthood actually performs mammograms. These independent journalists have also produced evidence suggesting that some affiliates have failed to report instances of sexual abuse, sexual trafficking and rape.

“There’s no question that the media,” said Daily Beast media critic Howard Kurtz, “have been approaching the whole narrative from the left.”

When the media tell only half the story, they become effective partisans, and they do so at the expense of accuracy, accountability and fairness.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mollie Ziegler Hemingway.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Abortion • Opinion

soundoff (1,171 Responses)
  1. Skeeve

    And this piece was, of cause (probably because it is written by a conservative) is unbiased, objective and represent truth, all truth and nothing but truth.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  2. Sharon Lawler

    Good article. The reality is that Planned Parenthood with annual revenues exceeding $1 billion does little in the way of screening for breast cancer. But the organization is very much in the business of selling abortions. PP should not even care if it gets the grants of approximately $600,000 annually. That money is peanuts to PP which only shows the greed this organization has. How come wealthy PP does not invest in mammogram machines at their clinics if they are so interested in women's health?. You won't find any PP clinics doing mammograms.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • George

      There are serious questions about how the money for supposed "breast exams" was spent!

      February 7, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @George awww George looks like you missed my little response to this on the last page. Or did you ignore it because it goes against your narrow little view of the world?

      February 7, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Severinus

      George, there aren't any questions about how Planned Parenthood spends its money. Accusations are not proof. It's called McCarthyism.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  3. George

    Komen's image has been forever tarnished, they will soon be a shadow of their former selves. And frankly, it is time. This organization has become far to political and too large to do any good for 'their cause'. There are far more deserving organizations out there, one should consider carefully where one decides to donate too. I know that I have given the Susan G. Komen foundation the last dollar I ever will, and from 'watercooler talk' around the office, many share in my decision.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  4. Nate

    Komen put forth a thin story on revising their guidelines for grants. They made it clear the decision to make Planned Parenthood no longer eligible for grants had nothing to do with abortion. No one – including the author of this piece – believed them. Many found it shocking everyone was supposed to just go along with a wink and a nod Komen did not stand up for any principle. Based on everything Komen put forth why would the author think this had anything to do with abortion?

    February 7, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  5. Severinus

    Mollie, you are an imbecile. It's all about "the Liberal Media" again. The fact is, it was a political decision. Handel said so herself in internal e-mail discussions about how to make it not look political. Don't think that the rest of the American public is as dumb as you. The media covered the story properly. The vast majority of Americans and Komen contributors support a woman's right to choose. Komen did not bow to media pressure, it bowed to financial pressure from its donors. There was no conspiracy on the part of Planned Parenthood. To give equal emphasis to the anti-choice position here would be to create an illusion of parity – an illusion that half the people hold your view. They do not. You are a small and shrinking minority on this issue.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • mgthink

      The growing majority of pro-life people who, like the anti slavery abolitionists (recall, slavery was justified by asserting our Black brothers were "not human, or not quite human", and the Jews who were "de-humanized" by the Nazi's), have just decided to be the one's whom history will see as the hero's who stood up for those who do not have a voice (yet). If you think it's okay to kill an innocent human (preborn baby) because they're inconvenient, yet say you would have stood against slavery or Nazi extermination of the Jews, you testify against yourself.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @mgthink

      There is no medical or scientific definition that would classify a fetus before the point that it would be able to live outside of the womans body as a human. That is the contention between the anti and pro-abortionists. Your assertion is merely opinion with no scientific backing at all.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • mgthink

      In your experience, have humans given birth to anything other than humans?

      February 7, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • mgthink

      So your argument is that since they're dependent on someone else for life, they're not human? What about someone on dialysis – are they no longer human? Dependent on a respirator – not human?

      Is it because they're so "small" that they're not human? So is a dwarf less human than an NBA player?

      What about "Environment"? Because they're inside the mother makes them not human? What about when you change environments? Are you more or less human?

      February 7, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @mgthink

      Humans give birth to humans, and suggesting I said otherwise shows either poor comprehension skills, or a desire to demonize me. From a purely biological standpoint, a fetus cannot be considered a human until it can live outside the womb. Opinions and scientific classifications are not the same thing. Do not treat them as such.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Severinus

      There's just one problem with that mg, Blacks and Jews are human beings, and fetuses are not. Even Thomas Aquinas understood this in the middle ages. It isn't human until it has a human form. To say that pro-lifers are living in the middle ages would be unfair to the middle ages!

      February 7, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • mgthink

      I'll have to apologies for my comprehension skills, and I'm asking for your thoughts on this, not anything else. I thought since you said they couldn't live outside the womb, they were not yet human, is that what you're saying? I really wouldn't need a scientific classification for you to convince me you were human – it's really common sense, based on empirical data – just like with preborn children. Pretty obvious they're "human" prior to transitioning from inside to outside the womb. SO – if a baby is born with heart defects and cannot live without oxygen, is it still not human yet?

      February 7, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • mgthink

      The justification for slavery and the holocaust was they were not human – same justification for preborn children. Interesting about Thomas Aquinas – I'll have to Google that. Wonder what the discussion was that you're citing?

      So – about the preborn children's "humanness", again, is it based on size, dependency, and environment?

      February 7, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @mgthink

      I am giving no personal opinions, merely saying that until viability, a fetus cannot be classified as human due to the way it lives. This classification is at the heart of the debate between anti and pro-abortion. Without this understanding you cannot debate the subject in an informed way. But anyway I'm out, got stuff to do.

      February 7, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  6. elizabeth towne

    Planned parenthood does so much more than abortions. It's like the conservatives think "pro choice" equals likes abortion, what it means is we don't want to see women resorting to illegal abortions.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  7. IonShift

    "Mitchell’s hostile interrogation " - This is when I stopped reading.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  8. Gary

    The reason that this is news is because this is the half of the story that the media ignored. It makes me so sad that you are blind to the fact that both sides of this story had valid arguments, but we now live in a society where one side thinks that the other side shouldn't even be heard – very frightening.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  9. Kaitlyn

    This article can hardly be seen as telling the full story. Just like all the other pro-life advocates, the author places the full significance of Planned Parenthood on one service they offer that does not even make up 10% of what they do. The funding from the Koman Foundation was strictly used for breast cancer screening and by presenting accusations that Planned Parenthood doesn't even perform mammograms this author is proving that she is much less serious about conveying the facts of this story than is the "left wing media." This story is absurd as are all of the other pro-life stories that try to paint the picture of a demonizing Planned Parenthood that does nothing for women's health. Try being poor, uninsured and in need of a mammogram, then maybe I'll listen to your opinions about Planned Parenthood.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  10. SKyle

    Dear Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, This article is garbage. If you don't like abortion, don't have one. Komen money isn't being used to pay for abortion. So what if the same facility performs both breast exams and abortions. Abortions can be performed in the same hospitals where children are treated for leukemia. One has nothing to do with the other. Here's the bottom line you conservative nutjobs don't seem to understand: no one tries to convince a woman to have an abortion. No one tries to up-sell a pregnant woman into an abortion. No one tries to trick women into abortions to make a buck. Women that have abortions do so because they have decided to. There are no salespeople pushing her into it. Stop blaming abortion providers for decisions they aren't making.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  11. GrouchyKat

    Thank you for telling the truth. The Liberal media always makes any conservative issue look like its demon spawned.

    Apparently it's better to keep funds away from cancer resarch than to continue to fund the abortion mill of Planned Abortionhood.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • John H

      "the abortion mill that is Planned Parenthood"

      Actually, PP only gives 3% of its funding to abortion services. But why let facts get in the way of your opinions when it's so much easier to just be ignorant?

      February 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • You dont say

      ...oh please... give me a break... Planned Parenthood is the only place that offers affordable (and often free) medical care for women. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be able to get my yearly pelvic and pap tests, let alone affordable birthcontrol. PP is much more about education, health maintainance, and prevention than abortion. This article accuses the media of telling only half the truth... she should point her finger at herself for also not telling the whole truth, or is that a priveledge that belongs only to the ultra-conservative?

      According to the 2011 Gallup the polls the divide stands at 49% Pro-Choice and 44% Pro-Life. It's a slim lead, but I think that deffinitely points out an obvious majority here...even if it is only by 5%... she's mincing words. And what's with this bit about "undercover activists" gathering evidence? If she's going to mention it then she might as well as spill the details otherwise she just sounds like a fool and just as bad as the media she's criticizing.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  12. Thinkergal

    Komen funds are raised in the local community. Local Komen Affiliates should continue to grant funds based on the needs of their own local communities, not have this dictated by National. Any funds granted to PP (or any other grantee) can only be used for breast health care! In many communities PP is the only place that many women can go for such care.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  13. ehreval

    This "opinion" is pure BS. Taken in context, this move by Komen was just the latest ploy by conservatives to get a back-door illegalization of abortion, along with excessive regulation of abortion clinics, punitive state regulations and the outright murder of abortion doctors. There is no shame so deep that conservatives will not embrace it in the name of their beautiful ideology.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • mgthink

      I'm neither lib or conserv, yet killing those who cannot have a voice in the matter is just "bad form" in any culture or society. Just flat unfair in the deepest sense. Choosing to deny them the opportunity to continue the life they're experiencing – denying them the opportunity to contribute to life. Not sure who anyone thinks they are to"decide" an innocent person has no right to life just because they're "inconvenient". You realize you will be inconvenient one day, but at least you had a go at contributing something good – whether you did so or not.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Curious...

      If Komen is so concerned for Breast Cancer, raising awareness, and helping research, then why do they support a group that does no research, and no prevention? Planned Parenthood does not even offer mamograms. Take a minute and look financially, and stop trying to associate the stopping of monies to abortions... I do not support sending moneies to anyone that will not support the advancement of research towards breast cancer with monies donated for that specific purpose.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Johnny

      @Mgthink, Okay how many kids have you adopted? It's not just an "inconvenience" to have children, it is life changing and yes some folks are not in a position to have children. I agree with you in principle but who is going to take care of these unwanted kids? Do you want to pay for and take care of them?

      February 7, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Curious...

      Do your own research. The money from SGK to PP was specifically for early breast cancer screenings for low to no income women. This means that it was specifically for catching breast cancer at the earliest possible stage, where there is the highest chance of survival. This is directly in line with the Komen foundations goals.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • You dont say

      I'm with you....

      February 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • mgthink

      Hi Johnny – Appreciate your comments and your thinking – I haven't adopted any. Maybe we should.
      SO – Back to justifying the killing of a preborn child because noone wants them – so am I hearing you're okay with that?

      February 7, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  14. Dan the Man

    Planned parenthood is there for soooo many more people (especially the disenfranchised) than the Komen foundation. I know where my money is going!

    Conservatives are "pro-life" but at least liberals are "pro-quality of life".

    Obama 2012 – "voting for Obama is like getting older...but what is the other options do we have?...Death?"

    February 7, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  15. JC

    if you don’t like abortion
    don’t have an abortion
    and teach your children
    how they can avoid them
    but don’t treat all women
    like they are your children
    compassion has many faces, many names

    February 7, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • mgthink

      Compassion is exactly what the preborn children have been denied by "pro choice", – the "choice" is to kill them or not kill them.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Sister Mary Frances

      Preborn? Seriously? How about fetus or zygote? How about you keep your creepy creepy values off of my uterus?

      February 7, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • You dont say

      @ mgthink
      You never paid attention in high school Biology class, did you???

      @ Sister Mary Francis
      LOL...I second that emotion!

      February 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  16. stu

    actually, if Komen could have raised more money by sticking to its position, it would have. Instead, it was clear that they'd end up losing their shirts on this one so they did a quick about face. Money talks and in this case, abortion foes walked.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  17. Ed

    If Komen had a problem with not receiving support of pro-lifers because of funding of Planned Parenthood, why did they ever choose to support Planned Parenthood in the first place? No, I think this smacked of pure politics on Komen's part. Previously they thought Planned Parenthood was doing good work, then they changed their mind with weak justification as to why. Komen needed to be called out on this. It's a huge, well-supported foundation and needs to conduct itself with good example.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  18. happyhistorian

    "This is part of a disturbing pattern where the media downplay stories of importance and interest to pro-lifers.." Yeah, the person who wrote this article seems like they just wanted to push their ideals in writing this.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Michael

      Right, so that makes them just like everyone else in the media who's written or commented on this story.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Gary

      No – they just wanted their side of the story heard. It's called "fairness".

      February 7, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • You dont say

      @ Gary
      if the author wanted "fairness" then she might have tried a little harder at it herself. Sloppy article in general... it was a ranting argument trying to hide what it was... a ranting argument.

      February 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  19. F Lewis

    Why such a biased, unsupported commentary was allowed on a "news" site is beyond my comprehension. I am not a PP supporter, but at least I could support my argument with facts, not random "beliefs."

    February 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  20. Monte

    So what you are upset about is that the media didn't take your side? They did talk about the abortion issue. The point here is the largest provider of services to underprivledged women was not going to be able to continue breast screenings because a group of people didn't like the fact that they supply abortions. You may be against abortions and 75% of Americans believe there should be limits, but this isn't the way to handle it. The Republican party sure loves to punish the poor for it's 'moral' ideas.

    February 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • jersvette

      I was going to leave a comment but you nailed it and I have nothing more to add. Thank you!

      February 7, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Republican

      Poor people suck.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.